Senate Postpones Republican Energy Bill

Sen. Frank Murkowski (R-AK) announced Friday he is putting off introducing the Senate Republicans' widely anticipated comprehensive energy legislation until the week of Feb. 26, at the earliest.

After meeting with Vice President Richard Cheney last week, Murkowski said Senate Republicans would unveil their energy package this Tuesday, but he later pushed back the date to give the Joint Senate-House Committee on Taxation time to score the impact of the bill's proposed tax initiatives on the U.S. Treasury.

Murkowski, chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, also said he wanted more time to talk over the legislation with House members Billy Tauzin (R-LA), chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and Joe Barton (R-TX), chairman of the House Energy and Air Quality Subcommittee.

Murkowski was one of several lawmakers in the Senate and House that met with Cheney on Capitol Hill last Tuesday. Cheney is head of a White House task force in charge of developing a national energy policy.

The centerpiece and most controversial element of the Senate Republicans' legislation is expected to be a provision to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) to oil and gas drilling. Asked if ANWR still was in the energy measure, a Senater Energy committee spokeswoman quipped, "That goes without even asking."

Senate Democrats, led by Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), are likely to mount a vociferous attack against any legislation that includes ANWR.

Cheney conferred with a number of other lawmakers, including Senate Finance Committee Chairman Charles Grassley (R-IA), House Majority Whip Tom Delay (R-TX) and Barton. Barton's subcommittee would have oversight over any energy bill in the House.

Capitol Hill aides and energy industry representatives viewed the meetings as an encouraging sign. They said they signaled that the White House is serious about energy. In fact, the Bush administration is expected to send its own energy legislation to Congress within the next six to eight weeks.

Susan Parker

©Copyright 2001 Intelligence Press, Inc. All rights reserved. The preceding news report may not be republished or redistributed in whole or in part without prior written consent of Intelligence Press, Inc.